Leveraging Relationships

Last year when a senior leader spoke to the Women in IT about networking, he spoke about the importance of not only building your network, but also leveraging it. What does leveraging your network mean and how does it differ from building relationships?

THE BASICS OF LEVERAGE1

Leverage is a key career skill. Successful leaders know how to employ it.

Leverage differs from building relationships in four ways.

  1. Leverage is always reciprocal. The underlying premise is: We help one another.
  2. Leverage is used to achieve both tactical and strategic goals. You initiate leverage when you ask for something. Usually the request is small and specific: Would you be willing to share your insights about what motivates this client? Who can I talk to about getting on this project?
  3. Leverage is highly intentional. In creating leverage, your goal is always front and center. You establish a leveraged relationship with a specific purpose in mind, which means you use different criteria than when you create a friendship. Does the person have relationships that could be useful to you, now or in the future?
  4. Leverage brings distinctive rewards. In leveraged relationships, the rewards are external, which means they are measurable and concrete. You gain access to a different team of people in another part of the company. You have an opportunity to enhance your reputation and visibility.

While women are often great relationship-builders, they tend to be less skilled at leveraging them. There are talented, intelligent women who rebel at the very thought of asking other people to help them meet career goals. “Office politics are really not my thing” is a common response.  They have no problem spending time getting to know people, offering help, or giving advice, but they struggle with advancing their own ambitions. Leveraging relationships is key for achieving professional success. Most successful careers are built on professional, mutual, and intentional exchanges – not just on talent or hard work.

Successful leverage is the very definition of a win-win situation: it’s good for you and it’s good for the other person.  Being genuine and letting others know you are equally invested in the working relationship, will bring more value to everyone.

1 How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith, Ch8